Remembering The 20th
Century: An Oral History of Monmouth County
Date of Interview: February
Name of Interviewer: Ms. Newman
Premises of Interview: Ocean Township, NJ
Birthdate of subject: August 12, 1925
Ms. Newman: From
1968 to 1972 Mrs. Caplan was affiliated with the Madison Township Board
of Education and from 1972 to 1989 she held a position of social worker
on the Child Study Team at Henry Hudson Regional High School District.
Mrs. Caplan, how did you first came to this area?
Caplan after a full day of hiking the Judean Hills in Israel, 1949
Ms. Caplan: I was raised
in Chatham Township in Morris County, and as a teenager I moved to Newark.
I graduated from Arts High School in Newark, New Jersey in June, 1942.
And then I entered New York University. I commuted from Newark everyday
for four years and graduated from NYU with a major in music education
in May or June of 1946. After that I began teaching music in New York
City in Jewish afternoon schools. Then I taught in a Jewish day school,
the Ramaz School, in New York for two years in the late 1940s. I
guess I was at Ramaz from 1947 to 1949. In 1949, I received a scholarship
to spend one year in the newly born State of Israel, so from 1949 to 1950,
I was in Israel. I was in a youth leadership training course there. It
was an intensive course which included, among other courses, participating
in music education activities throughout the new country, meeting with
teachers and learning the folk music and so on. When I came back in 1950,
I had forfeited my tenure year at Ramaz, so I got a music teaching job
in Detroit, Michigan in 1951. That's where I met my husband, Philip Caplan.
He was born and raised in Detroit, and his family dates back to the 1880s
in the city of Detroit. He had just graduated as a physicist, and he was
able to secure employment at Fort Monmouth which was then the Signal Corps
Engineering Laboratories at Fort Monmouth and at Camp Evans (now being
converted to a historical site). His first job was at Camp Evans with
the Diana Project, the moon project. And not being people who moved around
very much, we landed here and stayed here. We were married in the summer
of 1952 and we stayed here in Asbury Park. We're still right here. We
haven't moved very far. I had an encounter with Asbury Park when I was
a teenager living in Newark. I belonged to what was then called the National
Youth Administration or the NYA Symphony Orchestra. This was during my
junior and senior years in high school.
Ms. Newman: What was your instrument?
Ms. Caplan: Violin. We had some outstanding conductors in those
days. The musicians and the artists and the conductors didn't have means
to make a living, so the government created work projects under the New
Deal. One of them was a youth orchestra. We gave concerts in the summertime
for one entire summer. I forget which year it was; it was in Asbury Park
at Convention Hall. Coming from a rather poor neighborhood in Newark,
coming down here on a Saturday was just like coming to heaven. Asbury
Park was just beautiful with the gardens, the layout of the lakes, the
water, the boats, and the people. I believe this was 1940, was just
about the time of the war. I think it was 1940 or 1941 that I was in that
orchestra. And never thinking that years later I would end up here because
my husband secured a job at Fort Monmouth by chance. When he came here,
there were already about thousand engineers and scientists employed by
the Signal Corps Laboratories, and so we settled here as a young couple.
I had given up my job in Detroit and he was just starting to work. My
mother was very ill at the time, and my dad was not working. So here we
were, moving down to Asbury Park and as we didn't have any means, we rented
a room with kitchen privileges in Bradley Beach on McCabe Avenue. It was
not a very ideal honeymoon situation, but I think we were paying thirty-five
dollars a month rent. It was about what we could afford, and that was
good, and we stayed there three months. As I began to become acquainted
with the community, I particularly sought out Hadassah and Jewish organizations.
I think the first person I met in the Jewish community here was Sylvia
Meistrich, who is still living in Florida; most of her generation is gone.
She immediately introduced me to Marion Cohn, who just moved down to Florida.
Marion and Harold lived on 4th Avenue in Asbury Park, raised their children
there, and then moved to West Deal. Marion is a musician and a piano
teacher. When she was pregnant with her first child, she was conducting
the Shore Area Hadassah Choral in Bradley Beach. She needed somebody to
take over, and since that was my field, I began to conduct the Hadassah
Women's Choral Group. We used to meet at the Congregation Sons of Israel
in Asbury Park, which was considered the largest and most important congregation
in the shore area at that time. All the towns along the shore had small
Jewish congregations, and still have, to a certain extent, but the Asbury
Park Congregation is now gone. But at that time, it was the center of
the Jewish Community here. So I conducted a choral group; most of the
women in my chorus were from Bradley Beach. In fact, one of the last of
them, Dottie Bernstein, passed away just a couple of years ago. Dottie
had a gorgeous voice and she was my soloist. And I could go into the details
of the people if you are interested in names.
Ms. Newman: Were you in great demand by virtue of the fact that you
had been in Israel? Was that so unusual that you spoke to local groups
and Hy Pardes (left) with Philip and Iola Caplan during lunch near
Ashkelon on the Mediterranean
Ms. Caplan: Yes, yes.
I did a lot for local groups. I was a program chairman for Hadassah for
many years, and we used to put on programs based on Israeli songs and
the folk dances, and I was kind of a culture resource here for Hadassah
for a long time. I never desired to become President of the Organization
or anything like that, but I was a good consultant and resource. I was
active, and I was also active in the Sisterhood of Sons of Israel. My
husband was active in the Synagogue for many years, too. I don't know
what you call it in English; he was like a sexton, I guess. Before we
had our children, we were immediately volunteered to conduct groups on
Saturday afternoons for the children who were affiliated with the Synagogue
and the community, and we were a resource for Jewish culture and Israel,
and so on.
Ms. Newman: How long did you live in a furnished room in Bradley
Ms. Caplan: After three months, we moved to Asbury Park.
We graduated to 7th Ave. in Asbury Park. The owner of our house was
-- I don't remember her husband's name, but her name was Fan Golden, and
she was in the choir at Temple Bethel, which was across the street on
Asbury Ave. Her husband owned that building; it was an old, very large
single family home that had been converted, as many of them were in those
days, to apartments for the income. She lived in Allenhurst in a big mansion,
and so we got a rear apartment, and lo and behold, that apartment actually
had a kitchen. It looked like a closet. We stayed there until I became
pregnant. We must have stayed there about two years, because our child
wasn't born until 1955. When I was about to give birth to Hannah we moved
to Sixth Avenue to a second floor apartment in a house that was owned
by the Edelstein family. He was a lawyer here. It is an old family, Edelstein.
That apartment had a big bedroom and a big living room and a kitchen you
couldn't sit in, but it had sunlight, and we lived there until I was about
to give birth to my son. My daughter was born in 1955 and Benjy was born
in 1956. I had four children in four and a half years, so at that point
there was no room for two babies. So we moved to the West Side of town
which was then uptown. The people who were "real" residents
of Asbury Park lived on the Northwest side. My dad, who was from North
Jersey, was a carpenter and we couldn't afford to buy. A lot of people
were buying housing in Wanamassa even in those days, trying to get into
developments and things like that. We preferred to stay not far from the
Synagogue and also to stay in the community, and we really couldn't afford
to buy anything, because I wasn't working at that time, only my husband
was working at Fort Monmouth. I did work part time; I was a music teacher
when I was pregnant with Hannah. I taught music at the Lakewood Hebrew
Day School, a Yeshiva which still exists. I did a little activity but
I wasn't getting any income. So my dad came along, and he took this house
which was on Fifth Avenue where Fifth Avenue and Locust Drive meet. There's
a little park across the street; it's like a triangle. The house was tipped
over to one side... these old houses list, but this one was so listed
that it was just about condemned. It had been a house that raised a whole
family of Asbury Park residents. One man who raised his family there --
I think his name was Heckman -- was a math teacher at Asbury Park High
School. He was the one who sold us that house. When we bought it he had
retired and his children were all grown, and we bought that house, I believe,
for $10,000. We didn't have any money to have builders come, but we did
get an architect. We figured we'd better divide this big house into two
apartments so that we could sustain it. My dad raised that house by himself
-- literally by himself -- with no help -- little by little until it became
level. I bet it's still level. I've seen it. We remodeled the kitchen.
People were remodeling kitchens. And we lived in the downstairs apartment
with a living room, but no dining room. The dining room had been turned
into a bedroom. We had two bedrooms and then in the back hall there was
a little tiny room; we built a little bathroom next to it. So we had the
third bedroom; you know we were having children. And then in the back
hall, the back entrance became a bedroom for our son Benjy, who was born
in the 1956. Benjy now has been living in Israel for twenty-five years.
We have three grandchildren in Jerusalem. We had four children altogether
and we stayed in that house until the last child was born
Ms. Newman: What are the others' names?
Ms. Caplan: Hannah and Benjy and Joshua and Jonathan. Three boys
and a girl. I could tell you how come we had the children so fast, but
that wouldn't be for publication. We wanted children; we were both
only children. We didn't realize what was involved. We wanted to make
up for the fact that we were both only children. We wanted descendants.
Hannah and Benjy and Josh and Jonathan were all early students at
the Hillel School in Wanamassa. Hannah was in the first kindergarten in
the Logan Road building, which was the first building. The Hillel School
started at the Jewish Community Center in Asbury Park, Comstock Street,
west of the railroad. There was a frame building that was the Jewish Community
Center and that's where they started the Hilo school. They were renting
that space. And then they had to get out of there because that building
was razed and a senior citizens home was built there between First and
Asbury Ave. The Hillel school was moved with the help of the city of Asbury
Park to the Solarium on the Boardwalk at First Ave. It was there for several
months. They had to put up sheet rock and partitions at The Solarium to
form classrooms. The new school was being built on Logan Road and Park
Blvd. in Wanamassa. It is still there. And so all four of our children
attended elementary school at Hillel and all four children went on to
Ocean Township High School.
Ms. Newman: You had said that when you came here as a school girl
you thought Asbury Park was the most beautiful place you'd seen. Did it
live up to your expectations when you actually moved here?
Ms. Caplan: Oh, yes, yes. We moved here about ten years later,
and it was like a dream. Philip at the time was looking for jobs in Detroit.
He was just out of school. Then this one in Monmouth County just came
up. It was the only place he could get a job at the time and we needed
him to get a job at that point. It was like a dream that we were going
to come down to this paradise of Asbury Park. We came down here to look
around and it was just marvelous. We spent much of our first two years
walking the boardwalk, eating lunch by the ocean out there, picnicking.
We just drank in the beautiful environment; we couldn't believe where
we were, and we still love it. We still walk the Boardwalk whenever we
have a chance. What can I tell you about Asbury Park? I'm sure that all
of this has been recorded: the Boardwalk was in tiptop shape and it was
always crowded. On Saturday nights we always used to go for a walk
on the Boardwalk. We'd keep the Sabbath so we were at home during the
day. It was hot and we had no air conditioning. Believe it or not,
the kids grew up without air conditioning and we had heat waves then that
were equivalent to what we have now, but people managed somehow.
Ms. Newman: You lived to tell the tale.
Ms. Caplan: Yes, we lived to tell the tale. And we had some very
cold winters. I remember ice skating and taking the kids for ice skating
on Sunset Lake; hundreds of people there in the cold winters. We haven't
had so many winters where you could ice-skate, but in those days there
were several in a row. I guess it was in the 1950s when we had really
heavy snow. There were some storms! I remember when Josh was born. He
was born January 6, 1958; there was a terrible storm that night; it was
eight to ten inches of snow. It was so bad that you couldn't go visit
patients at Jersey Shore Medical Center. At that time it was called Fitkin
Hospital. Hannah was born in Monmouth Medical and the rest of the kids
were born over here at Fitkin Hospital. I can still see my room in the
old building. The older children came to wave at me from the lawn below.
You know children were not allowed to come into the hospital at that time,
and we had little ones. When Benjy was born, Hannah was only fifteen months
old. They would bring the children to the grass below to look up to the
window. You know, we couldn't show them the new baby, because
the baby was in the nursery and there was crying and all that stuff. And
you know we had circumcisions for the boys. Nowadays the circumcision
event is almost the size of a wedding. In those days, the Banker family,
which had owned Banker Furniture Store, dedicated a room at Fitkin Hospital
for circumcisions. A nice little room was all equipped. In those days,
of course, mothers stayed at least seven days in the hospital. I mean
we weren't allowed to move around or do anything like that. So we had
two circumcisions at Fitkin Hospital. When we had the third one, I said,
"No more at the hospital," because in those days after
the circumcision, the baby would be put in isolation, because they
worried a lot about infection. I mean nobody could come in, nobody could
go out. Nowadays the family comes in and the kids come in. I said, "No
more babies over night in the nursery isolated by themselves where I can't
reach them." So we had the third circumcision on the youngest child
at the rebuilt home on 1302 Fifth Avenue. Incidentally, the second apartment
was 510 Sixth Avenue and the first one was one Seventh Avenue.
Ms. Newman: But it was in the neighborhood.
Ms. Caplan: The first one was near the ocean on Seventh Ave. and
the second one was a little closer to Grand and the third was on the west
side all the way up here, near Wanamassa where Bridge Street is. It wasn't
Bridge and Fifth.
Ms. Newman: How long did you stay there?
Ms. Caplan: We stayed there until Hannah was eleven. We stayed
there about ten or eleven years and from there, in 1965, I entered graduate
school. This might tie into some of the social trends of the 1950s and
the 1960s. You've probably heard of the Feminine Mystique by Betty
Friedan. I was kind of weary then, you know, with four kids in a row,
and working very hard at that. I borrowed the Friedan book from the library.
I had graduated in 1946 from New York University and I had been a teacher
for three years before I went to Israel, and then I had taught part time
after that. I just felt that I needed to do something, and this book said,
"Hey, you're allowed to do it; it's okay, you know." But I chose
something very, very difficult at that time: graduate school. There was
no part time program for graduate students in the Rutgers Graduate School
of Social Work. There was no such thing. Now all the schools have
part time programs. So I, in a sense, was a pioneer, as were one or two
of my colleagues from various other parts of Monmouth County.
Ms. Newman: What made you chose social work?
Ms. Caplan: Okay, here's the interesting story. When I read that
book, I said, "I have to get out," and at least I had been busy
with volunteering and organizations, and doing whatever I could
in the community to get myself out of the house a little bit in the evening,
now and then. But I wanted to do something with what I was trained to
do: something professional. I said, "I'm going to take a course at
Neptune High School." I heard that Newark State College offered courses
at Neptune High School in the evenings. I looked at the curriculum, and
at one course called The Family, and wow, that was right
up my alley, at that time. And I went and I took that course. I
think it met once a week for one semester. The teacher happened to be
somebody who was the Head Social Worker at Marlboro State Hospital; I
guess he was teaching a course to get away from it all. I became intrigued,
and of course he needed volunteers over there. This was when Jonathan
was in nursery school. He was the only one who ever went to nursery school.
Everybody else was at home until kindergarten. I figured he's in nursery
school, maybe I could get out a few hours twice a week in the morning
or whatever it was, I don't remember, maybe three times a week. I used
this time to go to Marlboro State Hospital. Well, Marlboro was a place
that never had the staff that it needed, and certainly not social work
department staff, and this is why this teacher recruited me. I think
Marlboro is one of the three or the four state hospitals for the mentally
ill. It was just closed, but there's one down in Angora, and there's one
up in Greystone Park, and there's another one maybe somewhere in Bergen
County. They are distributed throughout the state according to counties. Marlboro
was a regional hospital for the mentally ill. Now this was the time when
there was a great change in the way the mentally ill were processed and
treated. This man who was the Head of the Social Work Department was involved
in something called deinstitutionalization, a project they started to
get the patients out into the community. They were established in boarding
homes. They started to establish these boarding homes, especially in Long
Branch and Asbury Park; most especially in Asbury Park because there were
so many large homes.
Ms. Newman: Half way houses.
Ms. Caplan: They really weren't half way houses. Half way houses
are more for drug addiction or parolees. These were just shelters, custodial
care places. The philosophy behind this was to get the patients out of
the hospital and into the community, to get them in a family kind of home.
Ms. Newman: And did these homes have social residents, social workers,
Ms. Caplan: Social workers, due to large caseloads, visited only
infrequently. Medications were loosely monitored, and the ideal of integration
into the community didn't or couldn't happen. The project turned out to
be a disaster for the city and for the people involved. I'm not going
to be a social critic here, but that's one of the things that led to the
downfall of the City of Asbury Park. Because they had these wonderful
big houses that could be converted into homes for these recently released
mental patients. Also, people were moving out of Asbury Park because
of the race riots. Because of the riots and because of the tensions, people
started to move out of Asbury Park. As these homes were being vacated,
the hospitals started to send these people out for family care, and that's
a whole chapter.
Ms. Newman: When you went to Marlboro as a volunteer, what was
your experience there?
Ms. Caplan: I had zero experience in social work, and in order
to go to graduate school, I would have to have some social work experience.
So here was my big opportunity. For three months or four months I volunteered
there. They needed somebody to do the intake as the people were being
brought in with the First Aid Squads and so on. There was no professional
to greet them and to get some basic information; there were separate men's
and women's intake departments. I was put in charge of women's intake
for a few hours a week with little or no supervision.
Ms. Newman: This was in an area where you had no experience.
Ms. Caplan: Absolutely none.
Ms. Newman: Were you shocked at conditions?
Ms. Caplan: I certainly was. I was more than shocked, I was traumatized,
but I plugged on. I'm a person who takes a challenge sometimes in a stupid
way. I don't want to say stupid, but I don't give up easily. I had a wealth
of experience there. I can say that what I had there was a richer experience
in social work and social problems than I had subsequently in two years
of graduate school with field placements and in any of my career work
with the mentally ill. I had a lot of compassion and still do. You really
have to go to graduate school to learn how to not get burned out. Here
I had four children at home. I do give my husband a lot of credit because
he tolerated all this, and he did the best he could to support what I
was trying to do. I think my in-laws in Detroit and my parents must have
had many sleepless nights, but we persevered. So for a half a year I was
at Marlboro, and then I still needed a half a year training to enter graduate
school, so I worked part time for the Monmouth County Welfare Board and
that was also a very rich kind of training. I went on monthly home visits
to welfare recipients. I was exposed to all the aspects of the welfare
system and to the poverty in Monmouth County. I mean I had come from poverty:
we had never been upper class or even middle class until post World War
II, but the poverty that I saw at that time in Monmouth County was just
traumatizing. It was in places out in Freehold Township among the migrant
workers, and among many African Americans. It was an education.
For the six months that I worked for the Monmouth County Welfare Board,
I was exposed to the bureaucratic system of social welfare agencies, and
that was an entirely new area for me. I was a music teacher and had experienced
quite a bit of frustration with bureaucracy doing that. But when you come
in and see people hurting and suffering, and you feel helpless; that's
the beginning experience with social work. So then you go to school for
two years, and you're supposed to take these two years consecutively,
so I should have graduated in 1967. But between those two years, my mother
became terminally ill. We were still on Fifth Avenue, and by that time
the apartment upstairs was vacated. We brought Mother into the apartment
apartment just when I had finished my first year of graduate school, which
in itself was something unbelievable, something unbelievable, for a full
time mother of four children. There's another woman, who's name I might
mention, who was for many years the Dean of Community Education at Brookdale.
She was in my class and she also had four children. The two of us were
unique. There was nobody else in the world we could talk to about what
it was like. She is Norma Klein, and she just retired recently from Brookdale
Community College. You ought to interview her. She also worked for the
Welfare Board and then went to graduate school. We didn't know each other,
but we met in school. We commuted together every day from here to New
Brunswick. There was no Route 18 at that time. We went through the country
roads until we could get to Route 9, but it was nice. I learned so much
about New Jersey. I had grown up in a rural area in Chatham Township,
and this territory that I was traveling through was like home to me. Central
New Jersey was the Garden State. It was the agricultural center of New
Jersey for most of the last of the 19th century and the beginning of the
20th century, until the cities started to expand and the suburbs started
to develop, and you know what has occurred. In 1967, my mother came to
our home and I was about to give up my social work career. I had finished
a year in fieldwork at the Family Counseling Service of Middlesex County.
It was one of the best family agencies in the state, and it was used by
Rutgers as a field placement. It was hard to get in there, but I chose
to go there because of its quality of the service, but I had to commute
from Ocean Township everyday. We had old cars that used to break down
Ms. Newman: Very bad winters, too.
Ms. Caplan: Bad winters. I remember the car on a country road,
which is now in the Marlboro section, which was just absolutely empty.
There was nothing but forest at night coming home. The car just turned
itself around 360 degrees. But there were nice adventures, too. But then
my mother got sick, so we took her in, and Dad came down. It was a very
difficult time. I figured I would give up graduate school at that point.
She came in June and stayed until the fall of 1966. I figured I was certified
to teach music in the state of New Jersey in the public schools. I figured
I would take a job because the kids were all in school. So I took
a job in the Bangs Avenue School as a music teacher. The music teacher
had gone on maternity leave, and I taught at the Bangs Avenue School for
six months from January to June. The first few months I was busy with
the illness and with everything. The superintendent of the schools of
Asbury Park wanted me to stay, and gave me all kinds of inducements to
stay in Bangs Avenue. It wasn't that I was such an outstanding musician.
It was just that I really loved to work with those children and it was
kind of a combination of my interest in music and also what I had experienced
in social work. I really fell in love with those kids, even though they
were very, very difficult to manage. Are you familiar with Bangs Avenue
Ms. Newman: Yes, I know where it is.
Ms. Caplan: It's on the West Side. It was always a segregated school.
But it was certainly segregated by population at this time. I think there
must have been about three or four white children in the school. They
were from poverty-stricken families who lived in rooms in Asbury Park.
Ms. Newman: So your experiences as a welfare worker, you
felt, helped you to help these children in their lives.
Ms. Caplan: Well, I had fun with them. We sang and we danced. It
was nice. It was really nice. My mother, of blessed memory, had come to
this country when she was sixteen all by herself, and she was a very bright
person. She couldn't go to school because she had to work in the sweatshops
in New York. I mean hers is the typical immigrant story, only she came
without family. But she was interested in social issues, always interested.
She used to tell me stories that when she first came here, she went to
night school for a while. I don't know how. And she met this very
outstanding Black person who was advocating civil rights at that time
in 1907 and 1908; it was the famous DuBois. She used to tell me, she would
take walks with him and listen to the plight of the Black people, and
she identified with it because it was so similar to what she had come
from: a small town and poverty in Lithuania and a dysfunctional family
and all that. So I was ingrained at an early age with the idea that everybody's
fine and okay. It's not a question of tolerance. So teaching at Bangs
Avenue was a very nice experience for me because I loved those children.
Anyway, I don't want to advertise my great "non-racism" here,
but it sort of came with the upbringing and with the Jewish experience.
So I taught a half a year and then my mother seemed to be in remission.
I thought now is the time we had to make a move, because we had four kids
in this apartment with two and a half rooms that could be used for sleeping
and living, and a kitchen and a living room: that's what we had. No playroom.
Upstairs was an apartment. We were tired. We had a very short career as
landlords. It was not a very successful one. We just weren't cut out for
it. We wanted to find a home in Ocean Township.
Ms. Newman: So you were leaving Asbury Park for Ocean Township.
Ms. Caplan: Yes. By that time, the truth of the matter is that
everybody we knew in our community had moved out of Asbury Park.
This was 1967 after the riots. The people who belonged to the temple had
moved. We were Sabbath observers, so we had to find a place that we could
walk to on Saturdays. So we had to find a place either in Colonial Terrace
(the Rabbi lived in Colonial Terrace at that time) or further out. We
couldn't find anything further out in the Township, it was impossible
for us, because the kids were walking also. Well, I just about gave up
the idea of going back to graduate school, but somehow there was some
magic -- something that happened. I used to go down Bimbler Boulevard
with the car; this was always a thorough fare, a shortcut from Wickapecko
to Asbury Ave. It still is. That's been a big problem for years,
many years. I saw this beautiful house with an attached yard, and the
yard was just full of the most magnificent flowers of every variety through
all the seasons. These trees out here were lower, and it was just a magnificent
garden, and this house looked friendly and old-fashioned to me. We had
to move, we had to get out of the house we were in if we were going to
start the school year. Actually, Hannah didn't go here the first year.
I can't remember what it was that compelled us to move out that year.
I think we got a buyer or something and here we were: we had sold the
old house and we had no place to go. We knew a real-estate agent, a woman,
and one day she said, "You know, there's a house out on Bimbler Boulevard.
It's owned by an old couple." By the way, the people who lived here
were named Smythe. He was in the roofing business in Asbury Park
long before we ever came here. He was from the older generation. He was
aging and he couldn't keep up this place. He wanted to move to Florida.
His wife had been a teacher at Bangs Ave. School all her life, and she
didn't want to sell this house. But somehow this agent convinced them
one night to sell the house. My parents passed by this house, took
one look at it, and they said, "This is it." My father was a
carpenter, and I guess he appreciated the way it was built. But we couldn't
afford a house like this, we really couldn't, and I don't know what the
agent did, but she made it affordable for us. At that time many of our
friends were buying homes out in Ocean Township and Dwight Drive and all
of those fancy developments. Middlebrook first began to become a development
at that time. They were converting farms. Somehow this woman pulls up
to our house and says, "Do you want the house on Bimbler? Sign the
paper and you can get it right away." My mother was dying, I wanted
to go back to graduate school, we had four kids, not enough room, and
we didn't know what to do. If there was any chance that I could go back
to graduate school in the fall, I intended to do so. We were entertaining
ideas of moving into an apartment, but with the pressures of graduate
school, I would not have survived. So that's how we moved into this house.
Ms. Newman: When did you move here?
Ms. Caplan: I think it was September of 1967. Mother was
in remission, and my parents were back home in Chatham Township.
I registered to go back to graduate school, and then I got a phone call
that my mom was very ill again. So we brought her to this house, and I
did go back to graduate school. After I graduated in the summer
of 1968, she died in this room.
Ms. Newman: But you were living in Asbury Park during the riot;
is that right?
Ms. Caplan: We were living there during the riots. I think
there were two sets of riots. The first set we were living there. Now
I'll tell you something that the kids loved when they were little. I bought
all their clothing. I didn't have much time to go shopping. When they
were little, I was totally occupied in those days. We had one car,
and the logistics of getting them to school were involved. I had to drive
them to school because they weren't in Asbury Park Schools, they
were over here at the Hillel. I was very, very busy. So we went to Fish's
Department Store to shop for clothes. Fish was a member of
our congregation, and that was an adventure. We went several times a year
to outfit the boys. I had three boys. Of course for the girl, we
had to maybe go to the Asbury Youth Center, which was really too expensive
for us, that was on Cookman Avenue. We loved going to Fish's department
store. My husband used to walk the children from home on 5th Avenue in
Asbury Park to the congregation which was on Asbury Avenue off Grand.
That's a good mile. So he used to walk the kids on the Sabbath morning.
He wrote an article about this once. I think it was in the Jewish Voice
a couple years ago. On Fifth Avenue and near Main Street, there was the
Fisher Baking Company. It was a very well known bakery in New Jersey.
It was right here on Fifth Avenue. The kids would walk, but they would
walk down Fifth Avenue with my husband. Any kind of weather, it didn't
matter. I remember rainy days when we were up to here in water and we
didn't know how we were going to get back home because it was flooded.
We walked in all kinds of weather: we walked to shows, we walked to the
shore on Saturday with the family. I stayed home when the kids were babies,
I stayed home a lot, but he would take the older ones everywhere. I just
remember this little thing: they were baking bread at the Fisher Bakery
on Fifth Avenue and the smell was delicious. The bakers had the windows
open and they let the kids come over the window and peek in and look at
what was going on. I mean this was one of the adventures on the way to
the synagogue. And another one: there was an Italian business that manufactured
very fancy cookies on Main Street, and they used to watch what was going
on there, too. There were lots of things that were so interesting on Main
Street. They were all kinds of food stores and shops, and they would walk
down Fifth Avenue to Main Street and then up to Asbury Avenue. They'd
pass the firehouse where they always greeted the fire trucks. The fire
station is exactly the same building as it was then, and I understand
it was there maybe fifty years before that. The fire chief is the Mayor
of Ocean Township. We didn't know too many of our neighbors. I guess it
was already past the time when people were neighborly. I guess in the
early part of the century, people really lived in their neighborhood,
but we didn't know too many of our neighbors. We didn't even know where
many of the members of the congregation lived.
Ms. Newman: But you had an active social life at the temple?
Ms. Caplan: Yes. About the neighbors, we knew a woman who lived
alone in a house who was very old, and there was a recluse on one side.
On the other side there was a family with children. Sometimes we used
the neighbors for baby sitting because they had older children. The mayor
of Asbury Park lived down the street on Locust Drive. Locust Drive was
upscale because it backed up on Deal Lake. You know there's a triangle
formed by Locust Drive, 5th Avenue, and Sunset Avenue. There was
a little park there where everybody brought their dogs in the days before
the scooper laws. The kids used to love that park, especially when it
was full of snow, and they would chase all the dogs in the neighborhood.
In the back yard, there was some neighborliness where they played with
the kids in the back yard. They had some associations with some of the
children in the neighborhood.
Ms. Newman: What happened after you received your degree from graduate
Ms. Caplan: After I got my degree, I became a working mother. It
wasn't easy. It's not easy today. We didn't have all of the conveniences
such as the microwave. In fact, we didn't even have a dish washer,
so it was a lot of planning to shop and to clean so forth.
Ms. Newman: You worked for different Boards of Education as a school
social worker. From 1968 to 1972 it was Madison Township Board of Education,
and then from 1972 through 1989 you were over at Henry Hudson Regional
High School. In both of those you worked as a school social worker.
Ms. Caplan: Yes, I was a Child Study Team Member.
Ms. Newman: So what kind of work did you do?
Ms. Caplan: The main reason that I went into social work was so
that I could be finished with my day's work at the same time that the
kids were coming home from school. I did have some baby sitters, but it
was just for maybe a half an hour or so. There were no kids with keys
to the house in those days. Then I would come home and I would have to
start all over again, which is I guess what working mothers have to do
now. Only I think that they rely a lot more on packaged foods and canned
foods. I did everything from scratch. That's the way I was brought up
and that's the way I feel health wise it should be. I worked harder than
most of my peers, even those who didn't work. I was unique among the women
who were raising children. Some of them went back to teaching after the
kids entered first grade. Nobody ever thought of going to work before
children were in school. Now I'm not saying that's right or wrong, but
it was a different way of life, and the outcome will come later
in research. It was a different way of life at that time with regard to
what family responsibility was and with what the woman's role was. My
husband was very tolerant and believed in encouraging women to express
themselves. He didn't feel threatened by it, but he wasn't the typical
Ms. Newman: So you worked for these different boards of education,
and then at some point you set up your own practice, right?
Ms. Caplan: Yes, I started my own practice, and I did it right
here in this room. I went to Princeton for two years on a part time
basis to a course at the Trinity Counseling Service. It was a program
for training in family therapy, and I was trained in family therapy, which
is different. Family therapy does not mean family agency. Family
therapy is where you see more than one person, you see the whole family,
you look at the family from a system's perspective. That was the new thing
at that time; now we have integrated the idea of dealing with individuals
and dealing with the family. The family has so much to offer in the way
of understanding what is going on with a child. So in schools, I used
to interview the parents, and I always tried to bend the system. I got
in a lot of trouble at times. I would see the child with the parents and
get them to participate in what the plans were for the child. I did some
counseling in the schools, although that was not the school social worker's
role. I was actually overqualified for the job because they didn't need
a person with a graduate degree. They still don't. Now, there are many
more people with a Master of Social Work. At that time I was an exception.
I probably would have done much better if had worked in an agency, but
I could not have had the summer off to be with my children. I would not
have been able to come home after school and had the holidays off. I had
to do what I felt my responsibility was.
Ms. Newman: I take it your children never felt neglected.
Ms. Caplan: There were difficult times when I was studying for
exams. I don't have to tell you what a graduate program is like:
they do a lot of busy work. We were doing six papers a semester: presentations,
too, and a lot of the research had to be done up at Rutgers. I remember
I parked myself in the Long Branch Library. I found that to be a nice
quiet place to work where the librarian was very, very helpful. Often
I would take books out at Rutgers and bring them to the Long Branch Library
and find a corner there to study. I would seek out library corners
where I could just try to forget everything and study.
Ms. Newman: So how did you happen to set up your own practice?
Ms. Caplan: I had always wanted to do private psychotherapy.
I did some of it willy-nilly in the schools, not on a formal basis. I
took the two-year post-graduate course. I would see parents and I would
see children and I did some group work with children. I used to go into
the classroom, take a few children in a corner, and we'd have a group
discussion. There were dangers in doing that.
Ms. Newman: So you worked with the teachers and they moved you
to children who were having problems?
Ms. Caplan: Yes. All the Child Study Team members there were qualified
in one of three basic disciplines. The learning specialist knows all about
the learning problems and the proper learning materials and curriculum,
and then there was the psychologist who did batteries of tests on the
children. The psychologist's and my counseling role often overlapped,
but I was looking more at environmental and social factors. Then we would
come up with what is still today mandated by the state and by the Federal
Government. There is an individual aid educational program called IEP.
That's a whole story in itself. We tried to come up with a plan that services
the needs of a child, but you know how limited the resources are, and
the bureaucracy, and the legalities. We had very high intentions, but
it didn't work out that way, and you do the best you can.
Ms. Newman: But you had some gratifying experiences?
Ms. Caplan: Mostly with the children and their parents. I was always
taking courses. I got certified in Parent Effectiveness Training in the
early 1970s, so I taught a few courses at the Jewish Community Center
in Deal in Parent Effectiveness Training. Then I taught one or two courses
in the schools where I was teaching. I was always looking to expand my
skills and my role. There were a lot of limitations which caused a lot
of frustration. But I kind of smile at it all now because I guess I was
innocent enough to think that I could do all of these things perfectly.
Ms. Newman: So by 1989 you no longer worked for the Board of Education.
Ms. Caplan: Towards the end of my career at Henry Hudson, I cut
down to three days a week because I wanted to develop a private practice
and I wanted to have experience. For two years I was a social worker counselor
at the Hillel School where my children originally attended at Wayside.
They have a very large institution there; it's like a college campus.
They have preschool and high school and everything. So I did social work
there and there I was able to do a lot more counseling, and there I was
able to engage with parents, some of whom eventually became my clients
on a private basis. I developed an ongoing private practice. Then when
Mental Health Care swung into the HMOs, I began to be affiliated with
HMOs. I do this for joy. I still enjoy my work very much, and it's kind
of balanced because I have a limited caseload and I also teach yoga. Before
I left the school system, I started to go up to a place in Massachusetts
for vacation and studied yoga. I decided to become a yoga teacher. I certified
to teach yoga at the Kripalu Center for Yoga in Lenox, Massachusetts.
I started going there on vacation in 1984 and I received my certification
Ms. Newman: You went there just for vacation?
Ms. Caplan: Yes, and I started to get interested in yoga,
and then in 1990 I took the certification training for a month. I lived
up there for a month. This was after I retired. I was doing private practice,
but I was finished with the public schools in 1989 and then I started
to do yoga with just friends and my husband mainly. We love it and we
still do it today. Now I teach yoga classes at home.
Ms. Newman: Have you seen differences in the kinds of problems
that people have had since you set up your private practice in 1980?
Ms. Caplan: Addictions were beginning to be prevalent at that time.
I think they're even more severe now. There was a steady increase in children
becoming involved at an earlier and earlier age. Their parents of course
were also addicts, but I don't think you saw it so much from one generation
to the next as you do today. There is also the break up of the family.
Most of the work today is not so much with parent-child problems,
but post-divorce, post-separation problems, problems with being a single
parent, court conflicts over custody: I try to stay away from that. Also
problems of stress are more prevalent today. In fact, the average American
family is in a state of high stress. Everybody is stressed out. Everybody
is working longer hours than we ever dreamed of. My husband used to come
home at 5:30 every night. There is no such thing now. Two working parents
is a necessity now; the woman does not work for self fulfillment. You've
heard these things before. It becomes overwhelming as people try to rise
on the social economic ladder. Sometimes they go way beyond what
they can afford, and this is a constant problem, too. We're biting off
more than we can chew in every way, financially, emotionally, and physically.
I haven't come across any Internet problems yet, although you know our
kids' generation was the first to watch television, which was the first
big distraction. Now the Internet is becoming even a competitor to the
television. What's amazing though, on the positive side of this, is that
a little child a year and a half to two years of age knows how to
press the buttons and how to make the music come out and how to take a
tape out and put it back in. They know that everything comes instantly
with the press of a finger. Everything happens. Entertainment, everything.
Children are bored today. There's much more peer interaction than parent-child,
too, much more. I think that's because of the change in the geography,
with the people moving far away. The three generational family is almost
nonexistent. I mean relatives don't even live in the same area. And while
the telephone and the car and the plane have made it possible for people
to visit, it's not the same as having a grandparent around or having a
grandparent to help with homework. We have three grandchildren in
Israel; I just spoke with one of them this morning. Although you do have
contact over the phone, it's a more distant relationship. The peer group
decides the values and what's in long before the advent of the adolescence.
Ms. Newman: But your children have essentially kept your family
Ms. Caplan: They definitely have kept our values. Each one in a
little different way. We have been very fortunate that way. Two of them
live in Highland Park and Edison -- the two younger boys. The oldest
one is in Israel. The daughter, who lived a West Side New York lifestyle,
with a career that kind of stuff, married six years ago -- very late.
She lives in Marlboro and she has a little baby. The two boys are similar,
but their families are different. They married very different types.
One married a girl from Seattle, Washington. Well, didn't I set the example?
I married a man from Detroit. I was on the cutting edge of what was coming,
and I thought it was so wonderful. Now I'm sitting back here in my rocking
chair and thinking, you know, the three generational family is not such
a bad idea. There were a lot of negatives to it, such as having people
interfere with one another's lives. But now when parent gets sick in Florida,
for example, it's just an impossible situation. You have to have third
party people to handle things or you have to run by plane to them. A friend
of mine's daughter is the next generation. She lives in Australia and
her father is isolated in Wanamassa. He's ninety something and declining
and she's running from Australia to manage what is going on at Monmouth
Medical Center, New Jersey, and this is not atypical.
Ms. Newman: Well it's been fascinating. Thank you very, very much.